Rhinegold Dynamic and entertaining: Lucy Woodruff with mezzo-soprano Susan Bickley and theatre director Christopher Luscombe at April's Divas & Scholars event

Josephine Miles

Event preview: Insights on Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore

3:50, 18th June 2019

On 1st July 2019 Divas & Scholars will present an Insights and Highlights evening on Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore, to be staged at the Iford Arts Festival this summer. Opera Now caught up with Lucy Woodruff, founder of Divas & Scholars, to find out more.

On the evening of Monday 1st July, the elegant Club at The Ivy will be taken over by opera fans, opera singers and luminaries of the opera world – and the sounds of Donizetti’s popular comic masterpiece L’elisir d’amore.

This Divas & Scholars event will provide an exclusive preview of Iford Arts’ upcoming production of L’elisir at its new home in Belcombe Court this August. Soprano Claire Lees and tenor Robert Lewis, taking on the roles of Adina and Nemorino respectively, will perform excerpts from L’elisir and talk to Opera Now’s editor-in-chief, Ash Khandekar, alongside music director of Iford Arts, Oliver Gooch. The aim is to give audience members expert insight into the music, the characters and the history of Donizetti’s much-loved opera.

L to R: Nicholas Bosworth, Robert Hayward, Susan Bickley, Christopher Luscombe

For Lucy Woodruff, founder of Divas & Scholars, Iford Arts is a cause close to heart: she grew up near Bath in south west England, close to where Iford is based. Woodruff hopes that the event on 1st July will raise Iford’s profile, introducing the festival to a London audience and encouraging opera-goers to travel to the west country much as they travel to festivals such as Glyndebourne and Garsington.

Woodruff founded Divas & Scholars in 2011 after living in Vienna for three and a half years. During her time in the Austrian capital she grew to love opera, but upon returning to London was disappointed by the range and quality of events on offer for opera fans. She felt there was a gap in the market for dynamic, entertaining – and academically sound – events for lovers of opera. Thus Divas & Scholars was born.

A captivated Divas & Scholars audience

The ‘try before you buy’ benefit is also highlighted by Woodruff. She is keen that her events are not only for seasoned aficionados but also for opera novices wishing to hear a taster before buying tickets to a production.

The opportunities for real-life social networking (as opposed to the virtual kind) play an important role in Divas & Scholars evenings. The events are usually held in glamourous locations, with the talks followed by informal mingling during drinks and dinner: ‘I make sure that every member of the audience has an opportunity to meet and talk to performers and speakers’, says Woodruff. ‘People love to meet the stars of a show and we provide exclusive “backstage” access to these fascinating artists.’

Woodruff with conductor and répétiteur Mark Austin (left) and baritone Jonathan McGovern (right)

And what about the artists themselves? An important motivation behind Divas & Scholars is to provide a platform for emerging young singers to showcase their talents, work with established professionals and meet influential opera insiders. Performers at previous Divas & Scholars events have included Natalya Romaniw, Michael Spyres and Sky Ingram.

Woodruff herself has a background in the arts and is a keen singer. ‘I love learning from exceptional opera insiders as well as getting to know more of the canon. And as an amateur soprano, I’m always interested to hear about vocal technique from singers at the top of their profession.’ Meanwhile, she has ambitious plans for Divas & Scholars: ‘My programme is constantly evolving and developing – I love travelling to opera houses around the world and I’d like to do some international events one day.’


Insights and Highlights on Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore takes place at The Club at The Ivy on Monday 1st July at 6:30pm. Tickets cost £45 for the talk and recital, or £100 to include a three-course dinner and wine.

For more information and to buy tickets, visit this page or contact Lucy@divasandscholars.com     

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